Written by JJ Barnes
I interviewed author and computer scientist Rizwan Virk about his career, what inspires him, and the writing process behind his new book, The Simulated Multiverse.
Tell me a bit about who you are.
By training, I am a computer scientist with a degree from MIT and have an MBA from Stanford. Professionally I have been an entrepreneur in the software industry, a video game designer, and a venture capitalist. I started a program called Play Labs @ MIT a few years ago to help video game developers bring their products to the market. I wrote my first book over a decade ago – it was called Zen Entrepreneurship and it was about the challenges of trying to succeed in the world while developing a spiritual practice and living a spiritual life.
When did you first WANT to write a book?
I always knew that I would be a writer. When I was 13 years old and entered high school, if you had asked me I would’ve said that I was going to be a computer scientist and then a writer. If you had asked me in college, I would’ve said I was going to be a computer entrepreneur and then at the age of 28, I was going to become a writer. Don’t ask me how I knew that, but that’s kind of what happened.
When did you take a step to start writing?
It was after the failure of my first startup, when I was replaced as CEO and took some time off to recover from the experience. During that time off I started seriously writing an account of what had happened, merging the spiritual with the technical with the business side of things.
How long did it take you to complete your first book from the first idea to release?
I started writing it in 1998 when I was around 28, and published the first edition in 2003. It wasn’t until I published a second edition in 2013 though that I became more serious about becoming a writer, and have published a number of additional books since then.
How long did it take you to complete your latest book from the first idea to release?
My latest book, The Simulated Multiverse is a follow up to my previous book, The Simulation Hypothesis, which was released on March 31, 2019, 20 years to the day after the release of the Matrix in 1999. I wasn’t thinking of writing a follow-on book but decided to write it in early 2020 and I just finished all the editing and it will be released in October, 2021.
Focusing on your latest release. What made you want to write The Simulated Multiverse?
There was an aspect of my last book, The Simulation Hypothesis, that intrigued me but I didn’t pursue until I sat down for coffee with a fellow MIT alum who was working at Google, down the street from where I was living. He had read my book and told me that it was a good explanation for a mysterious phenomenon that is dismissed by most scientists dubbed the Mandela Effect. This led me to go back into an idea that we live multiple timelines, a multiverse, and this pulled me back into the rabbit hole.
What were your biggest challenges with writing The Simulated Multiverse?
This book was more technical than the first book, and required more overlapping of the different concepts – such as quantum computing, parallel universes, quantum physics, video games and spiritual dimensions of life, which made it difficult. Another thing that made it difficult was that I didn’t have a strong thesis when I started writing, just that I wanted to “explore” all of these other topics, and so the thesis crystallized while writing it, which meant I had to go back and do a lot more editing and rewriting than I’m used to.
What was your research process for The Simulated Multiverse?
I read a lot of books and articles on the topics that are in this book. I also spent a lot of time just exploring ideas while writing.
How did you plan the structure of The Simulated Multiverse?
I had a basic outline of the topics I wanted to cover, but ended up organizing it into parts later on as I saw which chapter fit together better.
Did you get support with editing, and how much editing did The Simulated Multiverse need?
Yes, I had a developmental editor, who gave me big picture feedback, a copyeditor and a proofreader.
What is the first piece of writing advice you would give to anyone inspired to write a book?
The most important piece of advice is to write, even if you aren’t totally sure what you want to say. You may discover the message while you are writing, and you can always go back and edit what you have written.
Can you give me a hint about any further books you’re planning to write?
I have a book I’m writing which is about the lessons from Autobiography of a Yogi by Yogananda, which is one of the top spiritual books of the last century but perhaps not as accessible to young people today.
And, finally, are your proud of your accomplishment? Was it worth the effort?
It depends on how you measure it. Personally, I find writing to be fulfilling in ways that my other professional projects aren’t, and the books will be my legacy after I’m gone. If you measure it only financially, I could obviously be making way more money doing things in Silicon Valley, but for me it’s not an option: I have to write.
Pop all your book, website and social media links here so the readers can find you:
Author website: http://www.zenentrepreneur.com
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